This past weekend was our eighth annual Toys for Tots event at Oceano Airport. I was honored by the US Marine Corps with a Warrior Coin for organizing the Friends of Oceano Airport‘s effort. As I accepted the award on behalf of our volunteers, I thought about the quote from Steve Prefontaine, the runner from University of Oregon, “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.” I was raised with this ideal.
Putting on an airport event of this magnitude is a lot of work to be certain. From publicity, to preparation, to staging, setup, to day-of -the-event, there are always roadblocks and hurdles to any sort of activity the involves hundreds of people or numbers of airplanes. I am usually exhausted after the last guest leaves our airport. The medallion is lovely, and I will cherish it, but I believe to give one’s best is a reward unto itself.
Our event is always the first Saturday in December. For us, it signals the beginning of the holiday season. It is so fun to see people with their arms loaded with gifts to put under the tree, wearing antlers and Santa hats.To see the aviation community flock to our beach side airport with airplanes full of toys was thrilling. We had about a hundred people and forty airplanes join us at our airport for the activities that included an elf catapult, holiday music featuring the Jingle Bells, BBQ lunch, and the all important toy collection.
It was during the toy collection that I met a charming six year old girl named Naya Pearson. Naya came to hear her Aunt Terri sing and bring a big bag of toys to donate. But the story of this remarkable child doesn’t stop there. Because if we stick with the premise of this article we can’t possibly end here.
When Naya found out about the event, she wanted to be able to bring toys to put under the tree. She didn’t ask her parents to buy toys that she picked out. Instead Naya brought toys that she bought with her very own money that she earned at her homemade lemonade and vegetable stand. She raised even more money by singing at her lemonade stand for tips.
With her money she purchased six beautiful toys and a lovely stuffed bear. SIX YEARS OLD. To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift. Naya’s best was to give of herself, her talent and her light. Those gifts will help children she doesn’t even know.
Our weekend at Oceano Airport was much the same. We all did our best. We had airplanes from Los Angeles, Bakersfield, San Diego, Stockton, Apple Valley and our local airports. Those pilots donated their fuel, time and effort to come and make someone’s Christmas brighter. Thirty brothers from Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity donated two days of service again this year to help our local families. Empirical Systems Aerospace sponsored our music which put us all in the Christmas spirit. Our volunteers made sure there was wood in our fire pits [though it was 75 degrees and sunny] and visitors were greeted. Kids who always wanted to get a look at at airplane or a gyro-plane got to talk to the owner or get inside. Look at Naya, the toothless smile, the zeal. Admit it, you get the same look when you nail a landing, or take off and see the mist over the Smoky Mountains, or see the Pismo Dunes at sunset. Your best, or we sacrifice the gift.